Major League Baseball's interactive-media company has been granted a U.S. patent for a system and method that identifies the location of an Internet user, in order to determine if that user may receive the video feed of a particular game given TV blackout restrictions.
The system uses geolocation technology to estimate the whereabouts of Internet users based on Internet protocol addresses. It then compares that location with a set of rules to determine whether to provide access to the requested content.
MLB Advanced Media said it believed the patent is the first issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to the baseball industry in the modern era.
"It is an honor for MLB Advanced Media to receive the special recognition that constitutes a United States Patent," MLB president and chief operating officer Bob DuPuy said in a statement. "The patent issuance is also representative of the innovation the MLBAM technology team demonstrates by remaining at the forefront of interactive and advance technologies. This entire team is to be congratulated and commended for its achievement."
The league's MLB.TV out-of-market streaming service is currently in its seventh season. MLB said the service has signed up more than 1 million total subscribers since its inception, adding approximately 500,000 in 2008.
MLBAM applied for the patent in December 2004, and the USPTO granted the patent Feb. 3, 2009. The company said it has an additional 10 patent applications pending approval.
The patent is U.S. Patent No. 7,486,943, "System and method for verifying access based on a determined geographic location of a subscriber of a service provided via a computer network."